Cheyenne River Lakota

Our Story

Here on Cheyenne River and among other Lakota tribes, there are elevated cases of normally rare diseases, such as cancer, lupus, heart anomalies, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. which have been linked to the deadly toxins in our waters. The incidents of these rare diseases among Lakota people are off the charts when compared to national averages.

Conditions of the Land

Cheyenne River clean water sources have also been destroyed through poor water management, most significantly, the damming of the Missouri River at the Oahe Dam (see aerial photos to the right of the Oahe dam, taken from the International Space Station 1989). This dam, and the five others built along its 2,300 mile course, destroyed the Missouri River watershed by flooding the timber and bottom lands, interrupting the Hydrologic cycle that is vital to the replenishment of our rivers, streams and fresh-water lakes and necessary to the sustainability of our ecosystem. Currently, the nation’s longest river, the Missouri, is number four on America’s Most Endangered Rivers list.

Read About Cheyenne River Water Crisis

Video below: Dammed Indians: The Relocation of the Sioux History Day Project by Sydnee Mettler, Whitley Dupris (both Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members and Ethan Schaffer, all 8th graders at Timber Lake Middle School under the direction of their History Teacher-Jae White. spring 2013.

Our Goals

Zintkala Luzahan, the SwiftBird Community, is ready to take the lead among the Lakota Oyate, indeed the whole western hemisphere, in implementing these methods to return water health and environmental integrity to our sacred earth. We can create a veritable oasis upon the Cheyenne River Lakota homelands and set an example for the rest of the world to follow.

Community Benefits

By far, the most important benefit and intention of the water restoration system is the return of the small water cycle. The stopping of runoff at the higher elevations and continuing with a series of small barricades and trenches along the eroded downslopes of water courses to retain moisture that will return as soft rains to those same lands through the evapo-transpiration.

The water restoration project also gives a guide on how to achieve the maximum efficiency and effectiveness of this strategic natural resource, how to address our current water shortages and how to manage our water resources in a sustainable way so as to revitalize our river ecosystem.

The reservation and community economies will receive an immediate boost, as the project plan is to use local labor forces and materials. When the Mni plan has been fully implemented, it will provide employment for thousands of tribal members reservation-wide and, in the long term, will offer permanent positions in maintenance and training.

Collaborations & Affiliations

Mni Restoration Project will begin construction this spring (2014) with several pilot projects throughout the Cheyenne River Reservation. Mni is collaborating with Engineers Without Borders and Colorado State University to use student volunteers and professional mentors to ensure the sustainability and future success of the project.

If you would like your lands considered for water restoration with the Mni Restoration, please fill out the stakeholder letter (downloadable from the link below) requesting EWB and CSU to conduct a comprehensive technical hydrology analysis and needs assessment of your landholdings.

We have received a lot of support for our proposed project from grassroots volunteers, professionals and hydrologists, and university students. We are also applying for grants, and recently made affiliation with Village Earth, a non-profit geared towards helping disadvantaged grassroots organizations to be empowered and sustainable. We are confident moving forward and look forward to inviting volunteers from other communities to come work with us this summer and see how it’s done!

MNI VISION STATEMENT PACKET A downloadable vision statement, letter of understanding, and contact information

Affiliated Projects

About Mni

To all children of the earth who desire pure drinking water, a good quality of life and longevity for future generations, we invite you to join Mni in pursuing water justice and sustainability for earth mother and all that draw life from her. Mni in the Lakota language means water. Water is Life.

Water poster photo by Carla Rae Marshall,